Monday, October 24, 2011

Share Yourself

"We were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well."
- 1 Thessalonians 2:8
How do we treat the people we love? We help them when they need it, we spend time in their company, we give gifts to show how much they mean to us. What is the greatest gift we could give anyone? I believe it is the gift of knowing Jesus.

Most of us have people in our lives who do not have a Christian faith. Family members, friends from college, co-workers, moms at our kids' schools. If we care for these people at all, we should desire that they come to know Jesus. We should be praying for that, but we should also be proclaiming the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, to them.

We don't want to scare these people off though. Come on too strong with the message of giving your life to Jesus, and we risk driving them away. That is why the second part of this verse is important. We can share the gospel by sharing ourselves with others. If we live out the teachings of Jesus, eventually God will touch their hearts.

Be a friend. Be someone they can reply on for support. Babysit their kids so they can go shopping in peace. Bring over dinner if they have to work late. Watch a football game together, and see where the conversation leads.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Harder Path

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths.
- Psalm 25:4
Imagine you are lost in the woods. You strayed from the path to look at a patch of beautiful flowers, then could not find your way back. You’ve been wandering for hours. Finally you come to a clearing. There is a man standing there, and on either side of him is a path. He gestured to the one on his left, and speaks.

“This path is easy. All the obstacles have been removed and the ground is smooth. There are fruit-bearing trees at every turn, and a stream of pure water runs alongside. Bunnies, deer and songbirds will accompany you. However, you will never be satisfied with where this path leads you.”

He turns to the path on his right.

“This path is much harder. There are huge rocks you must climb over, thorn bushes to get around, and many deep pits to avoid. There is nothing to eat, and no stream flows nearby. Snakes, bears and hunters will be waiting to attack you. However, you will never feel alone, and when you reach the end of this path you will find a reward like nothing you ever dreamed of.”

Which path will you choose?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
- Isaiah 55:8
There are many times when we pray for something, and do not get the answer we want. Things happen that we don't understand. We wonder why God is treating us like this, or if He is even still taking any notice of us at all.

But we forget: God has His reasons. We don't always understand those reasons, because God doesn't think like us. He doesn't act like us. He knows what is ultimately best for us, and He has a plan.

A child doesn't always understand that he needs lots of sleep and a healthy diet to develop properly. Left to his own devices, he will eat cookies all day and stay up late watching Spongebob Squarepants. As parents we have to insist that he eats some vegetables and go to bed early, because we know what's best for him. The child may complain, he may beg us to change our minds, and he may cry and have a tantrum when we say no. But just because he doesn't understand our reasoning does not mean we will give in.

Our Heavenly Father treats us the same way. We don't know why He doesn't answer our prayer for a new job. We don't understand why we has allowed this disease to ravage us. We throw a fit when He takes away a loved one. We don't understand His ways, but we have to trust that He knows what is best for us, and give in to His plan for us.

When children accept the will and the guidance of their parents, they become happier and content. So will we.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let Go. Let God.

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
- Sirach 27:30
Why do we hold on to things that hurt us? Things like anger, jealousy, and bad habits? Maybe it's because we are just so used to those feelings and behaviors. They are familiar, and familiar things can be comforting, even when they make us feel bad. But of course, often these things actually make us feel good. At least for a while. In the end, though, they wear us down, leaving us frustrated, hurting and empty. So again, why do we hold on to them?

Because giving things up is hard. Especially things we've grown accustomed to, things we've become dependent on. And bad behaviors and attitudes are the hardest of all to give up. When someone does something thoughtless to us, it's easy to become angry at them, to think or say bad things about them, to wish them their own misfortune. It's much harder to react with a smile, to consider why they acted as they did, and to pray for them. If a friend just bought a beautiful new house and is pregnant with her fifth child, while you are stuck in a rented apartment and long for just one sibling for your only child, it's easy to become envious. It's easy to spend your time wishing you have what she has. It's harder to remember and be grateful for what you do have, a roof over your head and a child who loves you.

While giving up our bad habits, attitudes and behaviors is hard, it must be done. Sirach goes on to say:

Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
- Sirach 28:3
If our hearts are full of anger, envy and resentment, there is no room left for God's grace, mercy and healing. At mass each week we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." We're being hypocritical if we ask God to forgive us for all the things we do wrong if we're not acting the same way towards others.

Holding on to things that hurt us is easy, but destructive. Giving these things up is hard, but life-giving. God will help you, but you have to make room for Him first.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do You Love Mass?

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
- Psalm 95:1-2

Does this sound familiar? It should. These two verses, in fact this whole psalm, describes how we should approach every Mass.

Mass should not be a chore. It is not something we do out of duty. We are not supposed to slip in late week after week, or run out right after communion. Mass is not a place to gossip with friends or ponder your grocery list.

Mass is about God. It is a time when we should consider all He has done for us, and celebrate that.

We should come to Mass joyfully, willingly. At Mass we come into God's presence. Who wouldn't want that? We should long for that moment. Our whole week should be focused on getting back into God's presence. We should be so excited for that moment that we actually arrive early, eager to spend a few extra minutes with our Creator and Savior.  If we fully understand whose presence we are in, we will spend the time praising Him for all that He is, and thanking Him for all he has done. We will be so filled with love and joy that we can't help singing joyfully. We will be so filled with awe and wonder that we will hang on every word proclaimed from the Word of God. We will be so filled with gratitude and amazement that we can't help but fall to our knees during the consecration. When Mass ends, we should be reluctant to leave. We should linger, not wanting to leave God's presence until absolutely necessary.

If this does not describe your attitude towards Mass, spend some time today considering why you go at all. Think carefully about what the Mass really is, and what we do there. On Sunday morning, spend some time in prayer before leaving for Mass, and ask God to open your heart to the true meaning of the celebration of Mass.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peripheral Vision

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory.
- Psalm 63:3
I am fascinated by peripheral vision. Sometimes we just can't see something if we look directly at it. An object you can see out of the corner of your eye disappears when you look right at it. This is especially true in dim light. This is because the cells at the edges of our eyes are more sensitive to light than those at the center. So if you try and look directly at something in the dark, your eyes are not sensitive enough to see anything. But shift your gaze a little to the left or the right, and the object appears.

I think we have the same problem with Jesus sometimes. When we try and look straight at Him, we don't see anything. But if we allow our eyes to focus on our surroundings instead, He will appear in our peripheral vision. Look at the beggar on the street. Do you see Jesus asking for help? Look at a rose. Do you see the creator of all things?

When it gets dark, it can be even harder to see Jesus. When we're struggling, often we look for Him, and it seems He is not there. Again, we need to shift our focus. If you are sick, look at your doctor. Do you see The Healer? If you are out of work, look at a father. Do you see the One who will take care of all your needs? If you are lonely, look all around you at church. Do you see your brothers and sisters?

Peripheral vision is sometimes stronger than normal vision, more sensitive. When you look directly at Jesus, you may not see Him, Look away, and He will appear.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Are Pegs

I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.
- Isaiah 22:23
We have many pegs in our lives. Our parents, spouses, teachers, priests, even close friends. These people are all people we can rely on, pegs fixed firmly in our lives. They are trustworthy, they are there when we need them for help, advice or comfort. They nourish and support us.

We too are pegs. Elderly parents may rely on us to meet their needs. Our children certainly do. Our spouse relies on us to be a partner in our marriage, supporting them in times of need, giving freely of our love. A good employee will be a strong peg in their company, building up the business, getting the work done. Those in any kind of teaching profession must be especially strong pegs as their students look to them for knowledge and guidance. Ministers in the parish (e.g. lectors, bible study leaders, musicians) work to deepen and strengthen the faith and spirituality of the parishioners. Friends come to us for companionship and understanding.

With so many roles to live up to, there is only one place to get everything we need to be good pegs. God. He put us where we are, and He will give us what we need to do the work He has assigned us. Look to God for wisdom, strength, courage, patience and enthusiasm, and you will be the peg He has created you to be.